UF Brings the Heat at NSSBC

UF’s winning bridge swings into action. (Photo: T. Bart Quimby, courtesy of ASCE)

A team of 12 students from the University of Florida constructed the winning bridge in the 2015 ASCE/AISC National Student Steel Bridge Competition (NSSBC), hosted by the University of Missouri-Kansas City, May 22-23. Second place overall went to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and École de technologie supérieure, Montreal, Québec, took home third.

Nearly 600 students from 47 participating colleges and universities - narrowed down from 18 regional competitions throughout the spring - competed in the 24th annual national championship. The competition is an exciting visual display of students’ structural design and analysis skills at work. Teams are challenged to design, fabricate and construct their own one-tenth-scale steel bridge in the shortest time and under specific building constraints that reflect real-life structural specifications and construction regulations.

This is the second time UF has won the national title in the school’s history. Their first win was in 1997.

“This is the greatest accomplishment I’ve had since attending the University of Florida,” said Justin Rayl, a fourth year civil engineering student and captain of the UF steel bridge team. “We had a very strong team. Everyone was willing to put 100% effort into every aspect of the bridge, whether it was the design, jig set up or fabrication. Countless hours were put into the bridge by every member of the team, and we had great support from our faculty advisors.”

Rayl also credits the team’s win to the time spent perfecting their bridge assembly. “By the time we left for nationals, we probably assembled the bridge 100 times,” he explained. “I have to give credit to our entire team for being at every practice to watch the assembly team build the bridge and then disassemble it for us to do all over again. It was truly a team effort to get our finished product at nationals.” He also noted that managing schedules and deadlines, as well as relationship building, are important aspects of the competition that will serve as valuable skills in the working world.

“I truly believe that the NSSBC is a program that is actively building better engineers for the future,” added Christopher C. Ferraro Ph.D., P.E., faculty advisor for the UF steel bridge team and research assistant professor at the university’s engineering school of sustainable infrastructure and environment. “Students learn about real-world concepts and the creation of a final product that is displayed and evaluated for performance. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the NSSBC three times in my career and my favorite part of the event is the people. Although we’re all competing with each other, I enjoy the conversations and get to witness students discussing the culture of their school, exchanging ideas and sharing ‘war stories’ from the competition.”

Bridge rankings were based on the categories of construction speed, stiffness, lightness, economy, display and efficiency. The teams with the best combined rankings across all categories earn overall award recognition. The complete competition rankings are available at

Next year’s NSSBC will be held May 27-28 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. To learn more about the competition, visit or